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Other titles in the Cultural Memory in the Present series:
Lessons from a Materialist Thinker: Hobbesian Reflections on Ethics and Politics (Cultural Memory in the Present)by Samantha Frost
Synopses & Reviews
Thomas Hobbes is an iconic figure who serves as an easy reference for pundits commenting on the brutality of war as well as for critics of a distinctly modern individualism in which calculating and rapacious self-interest is the cause of the violence, destruction, and exploitation endemic to the contemporary world. Frost's reading of Hobbes's philosophy shows us that underlying such visions of self and politics is another iconic figure: that of the Cartesian subject. What gives the iconic Hobbes his hardcore individualism and its corollary accounts of instrumentalism, conflict, and absolutism is a Cartesian rendering of the self as split into mind and body. Carefully elaborating Hobbes's materialist ontology, Lessons from a Materialist Thinker challenges both our implicit Cartesian assumptions about the self and the commonplace Hobbes that so readily figures violence in our political imagination. Through his materialism, Hobbes presents an alternative modern account of self-consciousness, reason, agency, power, freedom, and responsibility. In doing so, he shows that our fundamental intersubjectivity and interdependence require that we pursue peace above all else.
Book News Annotation:
Frost (political science, gender and women's studies, U. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) re-reads the Hobbes we seem to know and finds another icon behind the icon, namely the Cartesian subject. She finds underneath the individualism, instrumentalism, conflict and absolution of Hobbes is the rendering of the self into mind and body by Descartes, and as she carefully analyzes Hobbes's materialist ontology she realigns how we think about the self and iconic Hobbes. She also finds that Hobbes supports the idea that our fundamental intersubjectivity and interdependence, more than our individualism, requires that we support peace above all other endeavors. The result is both persuasive and challenging. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
This book provides a penetrating and original reconstruction of Hobbes's materialist accounts of self-consciousness, cognition, and agency and shows how such an account of subjectivity demands that we pursue peace in our ethical and political lives.
About the Author
Samantha Frost is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Gender and Women's Studies Program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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